Several times during my brief visit with Johnny Spann, he expressed concern that he would be portrayed as a man obsessed with a conspiracy theory. It was clear to me he wasn't. Spann was a loving father who, five years after the death of his only son (pictured left), simply wants to know how his son died.
The CIA gives the obvious details. Mike Spann was working for the agency, questioning captured Taliban prisoners at a fort near Mazar-I-Sharif in Afghanistan. He was killed when those prisoners revolted and took over much of the facility. Since then, Johnny Spann has been to Afghanistan and back, trying to fill in the painful blanks.
Was Mike executed? Was he tortured? Or was he shot and killed in those first chaos-filled moments of the uprising?
I asked Johnny why he needs to know this and why he's worked so hard and so long for answers. He compared it to losing a child in a car wreck. He said you want to know how the accident happened, where, who caused it, what kind of injuries were inflicted, etc. Except in Johnny's case, his child was killed more than 7,000 miles away and in a chain of events that few witnesses lived to describe.
When I asked about Mike's final moments, Johnny spoke softly. He said Afghans who were there at the time say his son went down fighting, firing his weapons until he was out of ammunition, then hand-to-hand until prisoners overwhelmed him. But that's where the story stops.
Johnny Spann told me his son lived an honorable life and died an honorable death. I saw evidence of this is all over Spann's real estate office in Winfield, Alabama. Pictures of his son as a young Marine and a proud father of three are on display along with his funeral at Arlington and the framed flag that draped his coffin on the flight home.
I thought it was very interesting when Spann said his son once told him not to believe he was dead until he saw his body. It was a son's way of trying to comfort his father who worried about the dangers of a risky and secretive job. But Johnny Spann looks back at it now as a challenge to discover the truth about his death. He's decided he can't rely on others to tell him what happened. He has to find out for himself.